How “The Hobbit” was Brought to Israeli Readers

Jan. 25 2018

From the end of the Six-Day War in 1967 until 1970, Israel fought a low-intensity conflict, known as the “war of attrition,” with Egypt, Jordan, and the PLO. Ten Israeli air-force pilots were captured in the final year; after four months of solitary confinement, all were thrown into a single cell. Around that time, one of the pilots received a copy of J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit. Chen Malul describes what happened next:

The four pilots in the cell [with a solid grasp of English] decided to translate The Hobbit for those who would find it hard to understand. The pilots initially translated specific words and expressions. It did not take them long to discover that the work distracted them from their life in captivity, and soon they found themselves working day after day, for many long hours, on translating the entire book.

The work was done in pairs—one reading the text in English and translating it to Hebrew on the spot. The second’s job was to be an editor: to improve the Hebrew translation and adjust it to the high level of Tolkien’s original work. The many poems in the book presented a complex challenge, and the four turned to their cellmates for help. They later related that “we failed slightly with the poems in the book.” Under the circumstances in which the unprofessional translators found themselves, a labor of love would suffice. The entire project took four months, and it’s unlikely they thought the translation they worked so hard on while in captivity would ever be read outside the walls of their cramped cell.

The prisoners, who were released from captivity only after the Yom Kippur War, [returned to Israel] bearing a well-used copy of The Hobbit, along with seven full notebooks. In 1977, the Hebrew translation done by the pilots and their cellmates was published with financial support from the air force.

There are currently three published Hebrew translations of The Hobbit. . . . The one by the pilots and their comrades is considered the lowest-quality translation of the three, but it’s the translation I grew up on.

You have 2 free articles left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at The Librarians

More about: Arts & Culture, Hebrew, Israeli history, J. R. R. Tolkien, Translation, War of Attrition

 

The Impossibility of Unilateral Withdrawal from the West Bank

Feb. 19 2019

Since throwing his hat into the ring for the Israeli premiership, the former IDF chief of staff Benny Gantz has been reticent about his policy plans. Nonetheless, he has made clear his openness to unilateral disengagement from the West Bank along the lines of the 2005 withdrawal from Gaza, stating the necessity of finding “a way in which we’re not controlling other people.” Gershon Hacohen argues that any such plan would be ill-advised:

The political and strategic precepts underlying the Oslo “peace” process, which Gantz echoes, vanished long ago. The PLO has unequivocally revealed its true colors: its total lack of interest in peace, unyielding rejection of the idea of Jewish statehood, and incessant propensity for violence and terrorism. . . . Tehran is rapidly emerging as regional hegemon, with its tentacles spreading from Yemen and Iraq to the Mediterranean Sea and its dogged quest for nuclear weapons continuing apace under the international radar. Even the terror groups Hizballah and Hamas pose a far greater threat to Israel’s national security than they did a decade ago. Under these circumstances, Israel’s withdrawal from the West Bank’s Area C, [the only part still under direct Israeli control], would constitute nothing short of an existential threat.

Nor does Israel need to find a way to stop “controlling other people,” as Gantz put it, for the simple reason that its control of the Palestinians ended some two decades ago. In May 1994 the IDF withdrew from all Palestinian population centers in the Gaza Strip. In January 1996 it vacated the West Bank’s populated areas (the Oslo Accords’ Areas A and B), comprising over 90 percent of the West Bank’s Palestinian residents, and handed control of that population to the Palestinian Authority (PA). . . .

This in turn means that the real dispute between Israel and the Palestinians, as well as within Israel itself, no longer revolves around the end of “occupation” but around the future of eastern Jerusalem and Area C. And since Area C (which is home to only 100,000 Palestinians) includes all the Jewish West Bank localities, IDF bases, transportation arteries, vital topographic sites, and habitable empty spaces between the Jordan Valley and the Jerusalem metropolis, its continued retention by Israel is a vital national interest. Why? Because its surrender to a potentially hostile Palestinian state would make the defense of the Israeli hinterland virtually impossible—and because these highly strategic and sparsely populated lands are of immense economic, infrastructural, communal, ecological, and cultural importance, not to mention their historical significance as the bedrock of the Jewish ancestral homeland

You have 1 free article left this month

Sign up now for unlimited access

Subscribe Now

Already have an account? Log in now

Read more at BESA Center

More about: Benny Gantz, Israel & Zionism, Two-State Solution, West Bank